The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has called on the ACT Government to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old from the current level of 10 years old.
Responding to the Council of Attorneys-General Review of Age of Criminal Responsibility, ACTCOSS joined the Australian Medical Association, Law Council of Australia, the Council of Social Service (COSS) Network, human rights advocates and many community groups in calling for an end to the criminalisation of children under 14 in all jurisdictions.
ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “In Australia, children as young as 10 are in detention away from their families and communities. Australia’s current minimum age of criminal responsibility is out of step with international human rights standards set by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“The reality is that the number of children under 14 engaged with the criminal justice system is relatively small, so as a compassionate society we should be offering these children support through community responses rather than criminal sanctions,” said Dr Campbell.
ACTCOSS consulted widely in developing its submission and repeatedly heard that the justice system is not an appropriate system to meet the needs of young children. The research shows the earlier that children enter the justice system, the more likely they are to reoffend.
Dr Campbell said: “Overwhelmingly, children who receive youth justice sentences have unmet needs that we must respond to therapeutically. This is consistent with the research, which also shows that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children are significantly overrepresented in youth justice.
“Alongside raising the age, the ACT Government must continue to fund non-justice areas including early childhood, child protection, youth homelessness, psycho-social disability and family violence. We welcome recent announcements of funding by the ACT Government in child protection, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people and children’s services.
“Funding for community organisations should continue to include Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and recognise the benefit and necessity of whole-of-family supports to the wellbeing of children and young people.”
ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.
For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.